by ROYCE KURMELOVS
Let’s call her Phyllis Gladstone.
I watched her rip through her old share-house room, panicked, throwing clothes, blankets and whatever else up into the air.
She had lost her keys in a multi-coloured sea of clothes, empty Red Bull cans, old take-away containers, boxes of chocolate and shopping bags filled with even more clothes that couldn’t be stuffed, piled or heaped.
The room now belonged to a “super-girly” Vietnamese international student who, reportedly, worked at Supré and loved the colour pink.
“We have very different personalities,” Phyllis says, pointing out the pink and white rabbit Morning Glory door curtain the room’s new owner had hung.
She wore a long, tight-fitting dress with thin horizontal black and white stripes. Slim and attractive, with high cheekbones and big brown eyes, she stood at medium height.
The share-house where she lives was once an old cottage. It smelt old. Small, with large bedrooms, its common areas had been almost entirely furnished through hard rubbish, every available space had been put to use.
Ferns and green plants covered the walls of the small court yard behind the house. Looking up, there was nothing but blue skies. The place felt like Bali.
An entire wall in the kitchen had been covered in travel photos of the live-in landlord, Chris, years before his hair lost its colour. Some had yellowed with age and most were filled with him striking a pose against scenery normally found on the other side of a postcard.
In the centre of the wall there was a painting, a punk Virgin Mary with short hair and piercings, cradling a test tube. Inside was an IVF baby Jesus.
Chris was a tall, thin, polite man with a thing for backpacking and South East Asia. He brewed his own beer and clearly had a thing for classic punk, his CD collection ranging from the Ramones to the obscure Vegans in Leather. The ashtrays scattered around the house said that he smoked.
He only introduced himself briefly before disappearing to work.
Phyllis is a 19-year-old second year commerce student doing a double major in accounting and management who spent the first half of her life in Manilla, capital of the Philippines.
Her father had been murdered when she was nine years old. Six years later she found herself in Adelaide when her mother remarried an Italian-born Australian citizen.
The move was a shock. Phyllis says the first thing she noticed is how few people there were in Adelaide. Even starting high school, there were no other Filipinos’. Her friends were either Vietnamese or Australian.
Moving onto uni Phyllis says she had wanted to do Law, she had the grades, but couldn’t afford the fees. As a foreign national with only Permanent Residency status, she cannot access HECS and is required to pay up-front.
“I don’t have debt now, that’s my advantage compared to all other students who have HECS,” she says.
Her first year went by smoothly. She won scholarships that helped cover costs, but fights sparked between Phyllis and her parents. She says they took issue with her independence. Eventually it grew so bad she felt forced to move out… during an exam period.
“I’ve been moving around a lot. I’m pretty much homeless,” she says with a smile, ”If I was going to be treated like that, I just had to take this step to keep living the life I want to live.”
“I didn’t think it was going to happen, I thought it was all just words in the air.”
She says at the time it had been impossible to work, and for the moment it means she must take a semester off to work full time at a pub on Gouger Street.
“I’m just happy many people actually supported me. You find out whose going to be there for you when you’re in big trouble. But I’m happy now.”
Summing up, she was blunt, “shit happens, you just gotta take it.”